Convicted terrorist Sami Al-Arian has been indicted in Virginia on two counts of criminal contempt after refusing to testify before a federal grand jury despite a grant of immunity.
Al-Arian, who pled guilty in 2006 to conspiring to provide goods and services to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, has argued that his plea agreement ruled out any cooperation with the government. Two appellate courts, the 4th Circuit and 11th Circuit have rejected that argument, saying no such agreement is in the written plea and was not uttered during Al-Arian's plea hearing.
The indictment offers few details, except to give Oct. 16, 2007 and March 20, 2008 as the dates of his alleged criminal contempt. The grand jury's focus is believed to be on terror financing by the Herndon, Va.-based International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT).
IIIT was the single biggest donor for Al-Arian's Tampa-based think tank, the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE). The president of IIIT Al-Arian wrote a letter in 1992 referring to WISE as an extension of IIIT.
IIIT also housed Bashir Musa Nafi, one of the original founders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In 1995, Al-Arian sponsored a petition for a workers visa on behalf of Nafi to allow him to work as a research director employed by WISE. However, Nafi was actually employed by IIIT, and false information on his INS petition leading to Nafi's deportation to London in June 1996.
Al-Arian waged a hunger strike to protest his grand jury subpoena. He previously had been found in civil contempt, a court order that essentially froze his prison sentence from the 2006 plea and extended his incarceration. Under terms of the plea agreement, Al-Arian was supposed to be deported upon completion of his prison term.
His supporters have portrayed the subpoena as an act of retribution by the Department of Justice after Al-Arian's 2005 trial ended in eight acquittals and a hung jury on the remaining nine counts.
At Al-Arian's sentencing hearing, U.S. District Court Judge James Moody called Al-Arian a "master manipulator," adding "[y]ou looked your neighbors in the eyes and said you had nothing to do with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This trial exposed that as a lie."
Updated: 5:51 p.m. His attorney, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, issued a statement on his web site saying Al-Arian has told authorities all he knows in two sworn statements:
"Dr. Al-Arian has addressed every document cited by the government as the reason for his being called before the grand jury. He has shown that he has no incriminating information to offer against either IIIT or its officers. This indictment proves that the government was never interested in any information that Dr. Al-Arian has on the IIIT matter. This was a classic perjury trap used repeatedly by the government to punish those individuals who could not be convicted before an American jury."